A Definition: Selling versus Marketing

Many people use “marketing” as a euphemism for selling but they’re really two different things — related, but different. Understanding the difference helps set appropriate expectations, which helps prevent frustration. Understanding the difference also helps focus your efforts. Last but not least, understanding the difference prevents behaviors that send prospects running in the other direction.


Marketing is whatever you do to gain your prospects’ attention and regain your customers’ attention. Marketing tools and activities include:

  • Direct mail and email
  • Telemarketing
  • Canvassing (going door-to-door)
  • Advertising (including websites)
  • Networking
  • Social networking (not done in person)
  • Public speaking and other public relations
  • Internet marketing


Selling happens once you and the prospect agree to examine the fit between what they want and need, and what you offer.

You’re not selling unless and until that agreement is made. That doesn’t mean you’re not doing important and useful things that build business relationships — it only means you are not yet selling.

Draw a Mental Line

You’ll avoid a number of errors if you draw a mental line between marketing and selling. For example:

If you understand that marketing is different from selling, you’re less likely to have inappropriate expectations. This, in turn, helps prevent frustration.

Prospects tend to push back if you try to jump ahead into selling. Acting with the line in mind helps prevent push back. You’ll not only see better results from marketing, you won’t have to work as hard.

Drawing a mental line is essential for maintaining focus. We all do better when we focus.

Ask – Don’t Assume

When you’re prospecting — marketing — do not assume the agreement. Ask prospects for the opportunity to have a sales conversation.